The Blog

Democrats to Allow Up-or-Down Vote on Stupak Amendment

11:12 AM, Nov 7, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Last night the Rules Committee agreed to allow an up-or-down vote on Bart Stupak's amendment to bar federal funding of elective abortions through the health-care bill. A number of the already-declared "no" votes had based their opposition on grounds other than abortion, so the Democrats simply couldn't afford losing 30 to 40 of their own members on the abortion issue alone. (Politico counts 23 Democratic "no" votes right now, so 18 of these 41 undecided Democrats would have to vote no to defeat the bill.)

One Democrat says the Stupak amendment has enough votes to pass, but it will likely be a close vote. This summer (when the GOP caucus had one more member), pro-lifers lost a vote to ban taxpayer-funding of abortion in Washington, D.C by a 216 to 213 margin. Of course, then a few Republicans weren't present for the vote, some people like Tim Ryan of Ohio voted against the bill because of "home-rule" issues, and the vote wasn't an up-or-down vote on a pro-life measure but rather an attempt to block the entire bill from proceeding. Stupak's amendment has a better chance of passing.

Update: This Politico post I link to above by Patrick O'Connor reports that the Stupak amendment "effectively bars insurers that participate in the exchanges from offering coverage for abortions." That's not quite accurate--the Stupak amendment bars plans purchased with federal subsidies from covering elective abortions. Insurers would be free to sell supplemental plans and private plans that cover abortions.

Update: The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn writes that the Stupak amendment "would bar abortion coverage altogether." That's not true. The amendment allows people to purchase supplemental plans that cover abortions. Read the amendment here.

Cohn also writes that a "lobbyist" tells him that Obamacare may yet fund abortions because "The vote is better in the Senate." If Cohn and his lobbyist source mean that Senate Democrats could get 50 of their members to support taxpayer-funded abortions, I suppose that's correct. But they can't get 60: Ben Nelson and Bob Casey won't go along for the ride, and neither will Evan Bayh and a few others in all likelihood.